The Lookout

Mike Daisey gets standing ovation at sold-out show after ‘This American Life’ retraction

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News
The Lookout

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Daisey (Public Theater)

Mike Daisey, the monologist who admitted last week that part of his "This American Life" story about Apple's use of Chinese sweatshops was fabricated, received a standing ovation at the weekend finale of his one-man off-Broadway show in New York.

Despite a firestorm of criticism surrounding Daisey's public radio report, the audience attending the sold-out show, "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," cheered him on.

"I came here sort of skeptical after reading about what was going on," Jane Glucksman, who attended Saturday's matinee at the Public Theater, told CNET. "But his show made me want to re-examine everything I've heard about Apple."

Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the theater, said the controversy led Daisey to cut several sections of the performance and add a prologue to address questions raised by his critics.

"I wanted to let you know I stand behind the work you are going to see today," Daisey told the audience before Saturday's matinee. "The truth is vitally important. And I think context is utterly important. But because we live in such a connected and wired world, I would ask that you not look up the controversy on the Internet while the show is actually going on"

But Eustis said that, as a theater, the venue should not be held to the same journalistic standards as, say, "This American Life."

"We do not and cannot fact check our artists," Eustis told the Associated Press. "We're a theater, not a news organization. The vast majority of what occurs on our stages is fiction. If we didn't believe fiction could reveal truth, we would have to give up our profession. With that said, it obviously matters a great deal to me that our audience understands what they are seeing."

Daisey plans to bring his show next to Washington, D.C.

On Friday, "This American Life" retracted an entire storyline told by Daisey that aired in early January after Daisey's translator said he made up significant details of the tale.

In a press release, the show says the episode was the most popular in its history and was downloaded 888,000 times. The episode also sparked a petition for Apple to improve its working conditions that was signed by a quarter of a million people.

Daisey said in the 39-minute episode that he became curious about the conditions of Chinese factories where Apple products are made after he discovered photos of factory workers that were left on his iPhone by mistake. He traveled to the factories in Shenzhen, China, and interviewed workers there, who told him they endured terrible working conditions. Daisey described meeting workers whose hands were shaking after they were poisoned with the neurotoxin hexane and meeting several children right at the gates of the factory who were as young as 12.

The China correspondent for the radio show Marketplace, Rob Schmitz, wrote that he decided to track down Daisey's translator after he found it suspicious for Daisey to ferret out some of the worst labor abuses that reporters have been hunting for years in a six-day trip to the site. Translator Cathy Lee told Schmitz that she never saw the underage or poisoned workers, and that she also never saw armed factory guards, which Daisey describes.

In a press release, the show says Daisey told them he lost her cell phone number. "At that point, we should've killed the story," show host Ira Glass said in the release. "But other things Daisey told us about Apple's operations in China checked out, and we saw no reason to doubt him. We didn't think that he was lying to us and to audiences about the details of his story. That was a mistake."

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